Master Boot Record’s “Internet Protocol” is a change of pace

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It’s been a few months since the last one, so it’s time for another Master Boot Record album. Just like the last few albums, “INTERNET PROTOCOL” sounds great in a unique way. It packs all the blood-pumping energy of a final boss’s theme music with the wild composition of classical and prog music and the pure sound and fury of metal and synthwave.

One of the rising names in metal, synth wave, and all the sub-genres in between, Master Boot Record (MBR) is possibly one of the coolest artists making electronic music right now. MBR leans hard into the technical element that comes with synthetic music, dropping the realistic samples and sounds other artists use to make their music visceral. Instead, MBR uses a defined set of deeply synthetic sounds on each album and creates visceral songs through tight compositions that lead to a lot of rises, falls, drops, and crescendos.

The technical aspect is actually crucial to understanding MBR. The fiction of MBR claims that there’s a sentient malignant code writing the band’s music and spreading it around through all of our MP3 players and hard drives. The fiction feels pretty real, too. Most albums cost about one euro and each album is named after different codes and commands. With “INTERNET PROTOCOL,” MBR brought the fiction out even more by creating a crypto game on an IRC server. Any enterprising fan that solves it gets free bonus tracks.

It’s easy to respect MBR’s commitment, and I certainly do. That said, I haven’t used IRC in about a decade so you won’t find a review of the bonus tracks here. However, “INTERNET PROTOCOL” sounds complete without them. Taking a broad view, the album is sharper than a lot of his older works and has some wonderful and nasty hooks. There is a serious groove to this album that I did not expect and absolutely loved. However, I felt it did lack some of the punch and the fluidity of the previous album, “Virus.dos.”

First, let’s talk what’s to love about this album. This time around, it feels like MBR brought in more of his video game influences. This makes sense, given that the man behind MBR is working on a cyberpunk game right now. You can hear MBR’s 8-bit influences a lot more clearly on his SoundCloud, where he regularly uploads covers of video game themes. These covers have a bit less punch than a normal MBR album, but they tend to have snappier rhythms and clearer hooks. It feels like “INTERNET PROTOCOL” leans into that 8-bit side more than the older albums did.

Particularly, the songs on this album hit less hard on drops and lean in more on rhythmic hooks. Nowhere can you hear this more than in the song “IRC.” “IRC” has a monstrous hook that is MBR at his most rhythmic. A chirpy synth beat bounces up and down in pitch as another rhythm crescendos in the background. The track has the same frenetic, bouncy energy MBR regularly has, but the hook sounds smoother than normal, and higher-pitched. The change is good. MBR has a talent for composition as much as anything, and so he can make a smooth, strong hook that’s rhythmic and interesting enough to carry the whole track. “IRC” felt like one of MBR’s best so far.

To create this new sound, I do feel MBR had to make some sacrifices. The biggest was the punch that “Virus.dos” had. Some of the hard-hitting moments on “Virus.dos,” like the great beat drop from the end of the first track to the start of the second or the extended blast beat rhythm on “WALKER” don’t feel as prevalent on “INTERNET PROTOCOL.”

That said, the change isn’t drastic. “INTERNET PROTOCOL” is still a heavy album that keeps a lot of MBR traditions intact. Songs like “POP3” focus on lower-pitched, heavier notes and have disgusting beat drops and bridges. Mostly, it feels like MBR subtly moved towards 8-bit influences and away from synth wave and metal ones. That’s not a bad thing. Given how often MBR puts out albums, each one should sound different.

For me, the weakest element of “INTERNET PROTOCOL” were actually the transitions. The inter-song transitions between some tracks felt harsh and stuttered, breaking the flow and cohesion of the album in brief spots. It seemed to me like this was intentional, maybe to make each song stand out on its own, but I always liked the flow MBR albums had. Smoother transitions make heavier, more progressive music feel more palatable to me.

While I didn’t like the new style of transition, I did love the album overall. It’s a great listen for anyone interested in heavier electronic music like synth wave, or people that like classic gaming soundtracks, metal or prog. Each song still feels tightly composed and full of exciting ups and downs. While the heaviness has fallen a little, that just makes way for the rise of the groovy, 8-bit side of the music. What you get is a heavy and fun album full of awesome moments and unique personality.

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